Archives for posts with tag: National Health Service


And now I’m (not RIGHT now you understand otherwise I couldn’t be typing this or even see) lying in bed with my watermelon pattern eyemask on and earphones plugged in in a rather sensorily deprived and yet enhanced state listening to

The Beatles – Please Please Me
Fontella Bass – Bad Boy
Jazz Jamaica All Stars – Ball of Fire
Claire Martin – Black Coffee
Matty Eeles with Ska Toons – Love Alone
Love – Alone Again Or
Christian McBride Trio – Tones For Joan’s Bones
Hoagy Carmichael – Georgia

When you have time and space to listen to the music, especially on headphones, you can choose how to listen: you can hear the song, the overall sound – you get the feel, the warmth, the fullness and the memories too.

Or you can pick it apart – listen to the bass line, swap to the guitar on the right channel, the nasal edge of John Lennon’s lead voice, his harmony vocal – this is the more detached approach, but very rewarding, the Hammond organ swoops after Clare Martin’s voice, both thrilling. Christian McBride’s slithering bass skitters, his solo punctuated by little piano flurries. The detail in each recording!

And I think – this stuff – music,  in our headphones – transports us, takes us out, beyond… It, of course, separates and divides us from others (in the street, tube, bus) but connects us directly to the human essence: the breath rising from a human throat and the brush of lips on the microphone…

But then you know all this. And I’m high as a kite.

A favourite book: Revolution In The Head by Ian MacDonald. He writes about every Beatles track (and much more), commenting, pointing up features, drawing your attention to fluffs as well as well as the brilliances. Spend a few weeks with the book, the records, the headphones. Preferably not in hospital.

Look at this photo. I love it. Here I am, in Ilderton Road, Bermondsey, on Coronation Day, 1953. I’m in my new Hopalong Cassidy outfit, hat, gun, chaps. I rather fancy Britannia, in a 5-year-old way, but am scared of the 100-per-cent-burns victim behind me. I haven’t yet met a black person, so I’m not yet appalled by the blacked-up boy with the bow tie.

For some years after this was taken, I wanted to dress like your son: white knee-breeches, buckled shoes, red gold-frogged frock-coat… he’s a bit younger than me, but he was my fashion icon. He’s not now, no no no. Your coronation was just what the country needed after the war, in the midst of bomb-sites and real austerity. Although we did have a new National Health Service for people like us. (You can see where this is going, can’t you?) Your parents had done sterling service, touring the ravaged East End, bringing succour to the poor while bombs were still dropping. And, since then, you’ve done a grand job, being a Mother to the nations of the Commonwealth, dispensing wise and sometimes caring words on Christmas Day, and holding a rather dysfunctional family together. Ish. Not to mention what you’ve done for tourism!

Anyway: time’s up, Ms Windsor (respect – I don’t know you very well).  Thanks a lot, but 1300 years of monarchy is enough. Time to flatten the class pyramid, confound your family’s inheritance, and become Common. After all, you and your family have worn uniforms, and  even fought in wars, just like real people. Join us. No more Majesties, Lords, Ladies, Knights (in or out of white satin), Dukes, Earls, Duke of Earls, Counts… you can still be fabulously rich – that’s OK. There’ll be enough to share round your dependents, though I daresay a few palaces could be given to the nation – well, I suppose they’re ours anyway, aren’t they? in the long run?

Come on: enough’s enough. We’ve got the History, which is great: Offa, William, Richard III, Henry VIII, Charles I, etc etc. We’ve so much to look back on. Let’s look forward.